By  on July 15, 2005

WASHINGTON — House Ways & Mans Committee chairman Bill Thomas (R., Calif.), said he would push GOP leaders to quickly take up a bill introduced Thursday that addresses China's trading practices and is widely seen as an effort to attract more votes to pass the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill, Thomas said he supported a compromise bill introduced by Rep. Phil English (R., Pa.) that seeks to address concerns among lawmakers over China's trade practices and growing economic dominance.

English and Thomas, who had indicated in recent weeks that Congress might need to play the China card to get enough votes for CAFTA, stole the thunder from the Democrats, who beat the Republicans to the punch by introducing China legislation earlier Thursday.

Thomas said he would like the House to vote on the English bill, known as the U.S. Trade Rights Enforcement Act, before it votes on CAFTA. He reaffirmed the House intends to take up CAFTA before Congress adjourns for a month-long August recess.

He said he expects the legislation to move directly to the floor and bypass a vote in committee because several China bills have been circulating in the House and Senate and a number of hearings have already been held on the issues.

The timing of the legislation coincides with a trip President Bush is slated to make today to Charlotte, N.C., where he will tour the nearby R.L. Stowe Mills and try to drum up support for the trade accord at a rally at a local college.

English told reporters before the press conference he believed his bill could "bring on five to six" House members to support CAFTA.

Democrats who introduced their own legislation Thursday lashed out at English and Thomas for linking China trade issues to CAFTA.

"To get one vote on the [Ways and Means Committee] for CAFTA, the Republicans are willing to support a new China bill, much of which has been advocated by Democrats for years without any response," said Reps. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) and Sander Levin (D., Mich.) in a statement.

The English bill authorizes the application of U.S. countervailing duty laws to exports from nonmarket economies such as China — under the current law, companies are not allowed to file claims of illegally subsidized and underpriced goods against nonmarket economies — and establishes a comprehensive monitoring system of semiannual reports from the President to Congress of China's compliance with its trade commitments on intellectual property rights, market access for U.S. goods and an accounting of Chinese subsidies.

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